Since the decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to prohibit the sale of liquor at all convenience stores, grocery stores, and Chinese medicine halls, and the PAS-led Kedah state government’s decision to ban the operation of all gaming shops and curbs on the sale of alcohol in the rural parts of the state, there has been concern among non-Muslims that their rights and assess to these activities have been infringed, besides them being subjected to moral policing.
Gaming and consumption of liquor have been projected as a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims.
PAS leaders with their self-righteous attitude have put forth an argument on the basis of religion and protecting the rights of the Malay-Muslim majority while non-Muslims feel this is an orchestrated move to enhance Islamic hegemony in the Malaysian political and social landscape.
The truth that is missing in this debate is that not all non-Muslims favour gaming or drinking alcohol, and there are those who indulge in these activities in a moderate manner without the sin of addiction.
This shows there is complexity of behaviour among human beings, and it cannot be separated as a Muslim and non-Muslim issue.
Gaming and alcohol are not vices as PAS tries to project them but an activity that can be used in a moderate manner, or it could also result in addiction.
For example, those days when we sat around places like food stalls, there would be people selling lottery tickets. People who buy these tickets try their luck, and that does not mean they will become addicted to gambling. A moderate drinking of alcohol does not make one addicted.
There are good, loving and helpful people who buy lottery tickets and drink moderately.
If one looks at addiction per se one could question why PAS has not spoken about banning cigarettes since they are also harmful to health, besides causing medical conditions that would burden families.
While it true that the addiction to alcohol and gambling has brought misery to certain families, it is vital that issues of this nature are addressed through inclusive discussions and the building of consensus with non-Muslims on the harm of alcohol being sold in certain areas where there are cases of addiction.
This should be projected through statistical scientific findings instead addressing an issue purely from a predominantly religious eye that could be construed as exclusive and done with ulterior motives.
It is time that Malaysians built consensus on issues related to gaming and alcohol instead of one political party imposing its beliefs on others which would certainly be rejected since it is based on a religious flavour that has its roots in deep rooted self-righteous ethno-religious identity politics.
Ronald Benjamin is secretary of the Association for Community and Dialogue.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.